The New York Jets opened their 2023 campaign in September at home against the defending AFC East champion Buffalo Bills. Four Jets offensive plays into that game Aaron Rodgers tore his achilles tendon and was lost for most, if not all, of the current NFL season. The Jets went on to pull off a surprising overtime victory against the Bills that day.
Since then the two teams have both struggled a bit. The Jets can’t seem to score a touchdown and are currently below .500. The Bills come into this game losers of four of their last six games. Now the Jets will visit the Bills on Sunday with both teams badly needing a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive. The winning team will still be in decent position to eventually secure a playoff spot. The losing team will be running on fumes.
Previewing this crucial matchup, Matt Byham of Buffalo Rumblings was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the current state of the 2023 Bills.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
1. The Bills are a bit of a puzzle this year. They’re ranked 5th in points allowed on defense, 8th in points scored on offense. Those are numbers usually associated with a Super Bowl contender, yet the Bills are just 5-5 on the year. Why haven’t the Bills been able to win more games, what, if anything, do you think needs to change, and will the Bills end up with another AFC East title this season?
Yes, the Bills’ stats paint a favorable picture, but sometimes stats lie. As a blog, Buffalo Rumblings has gone back and forth about the team’s offense for several weeks now. Every loss of Buffalo’s has been a one-score game. Most have come down to the final play, usually putting the onus on the defense or special teams to hold up as time expired.
So why can’t they win close games, going 2-7 to this point in 2023? Turnovers. It’s as simple as that. But why have there been so many turnovers? It’s complicated. Apart from the turnovers, a lot of the Bills’ problems come down to execution — which of course also includes the turnover situation. Watching Josh Allen this season, it’s clear he’s getting bored trying to methodically move the ball down the field in long, time-consuming drives. He can play exceptional football for as long as his patience allows. So often you’ll find him humming through seven, eight plays — but eventually he’s going to try and hit the kill shot for six. Often, that’s ended up as an arm punt.
What needs to change? Those turnovers, and finding ways to keep Allen “interested” in the playbook no matter what’s expected of him. Will they end up with another AFC East title in 2023? Could they? Absolutely anything’s possible with Josh Allen, but that also means what’s happened over the last six weeks is on the table. The Miami Dolphins have a thin margin for error, having lost to the Bills already.
Buffalo faces a brutal schedule the rest of the regular season: Jets, Eagles, bye, Chiefs, Cowboys, Chargers, Patriots, Dolphins. The hope from Bills Mafia is that everything goes well enough to make the Week 18 game in South Beach meaningful for the division.
2. Josh Allen is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. The only thing that seems to hold him back is that he turns the ball over too much. Now in his 6th season in the NFL, this doesn’t seem to be getting better. Do you think he needs new coaching? Is it just something you have to live with to get the great things he produces? And do you think the turnovers will end up costing the Bills Super Bowl chances as his career goes on?
The narrative about Josh Allen being a turnover machine will never disappear, even if he turns into Aaron Rodgers late in his career (those who cover the league will always point back to his early years). Make no mistake, I get it — in no way am I here to say he doesn’t deserve the criticism. It’s especially understandable right now, given his league-leading interception rate this season, and with him having the most turnovers since entering the league in 2018. As a Jets blog, certainly you see the benefit to a turnover-prone Allen. The incredible thing to me is if you look at other top-tier QB, namely Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, their overall turnover numbers snuggle right up next to Allen’s.
Does he need new coaching? We’re about to find out what a change in coaching may provide Allen. Part of what makes Allen the player he is comes down to his feel for the game, and playing outside of the mechanics of it all. Through 10 weeks this season he’s clearly been frustrated, often visibly. Countless analysts and others who cover the NFL have pointed to a perceptible change in Allen on the field. His head coach said the following on Friday:
“He’s the leader of our football team, let alone this case the offense. And so I think just getting him back to having that look in his eye and having some fun out there, and you know the guy that we have watched over the years here, but also back at Wyoming. Right? Just going out there and having that joy when he’s playing.”
To me, that comment speaks of a coach who knows his best player is his best when he’s allowed to be himself. Allen transcends scheme — that’s what makes him a franchise QB. You could put him in a Shanahan system based on timing and rhythm and he’d be incredible (see Week 2 vs. Raiders for an example), but he doesn’t need a system around him to succeed. What he could benefit from right now is more play-action looks under center. Allen has gone on record stating that he prefers shotgun looks, but he’s near-unstoppable operating out of play action. While admittedly the sample size is much smaller this season, his completion percentage is off the charts and he’s yet to throw an interception in that look. The same is anything but true out of shotgun. But how can that be if it’s what he prefers? Well, much of it may be due to the scheme that offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey utilized. Almost completely absent this season is Allen’s effectiveness as a runner. It’s incredible, considering how much of a nightmare he’s been when running with the football. It would benefit Buffalo’s offense reintroducing Allen’s running game, especially in short to-go scenarios. Maddeningly, they’ve all but dried up in 4th & 1 or 4th & Goal situations. It’s difficult to understand why anyone would take away Allen’s threat as a runner out of shotgun, while placing the onus on the running backs further behind the LOS. Additionally, shotgun football throws off timing, which may have a profound on the Bills’ receivers in route tasks, and magnified by Allen having to ad-lib out of shotgun.
About the Super Bowl chances as Allen matures in his career? It’s impossible to know if today’s Allen will be the same player tomorrow. It’s fair to consider that the team’s window is always open so long at Josh Allen is its QB. He’s only six seasons in, and he has much to learn. Turnovers will always lower Super Bowl opportunities. But Allen’s the one QB who might just be able to outplay those turnovers. He may even evolve into a player who doesn’t create nearly as many five years or more from now. There are too many variables (including those not attributable to Allen) at this point to say definitively that a turnover-prone Josh Allen will cost the franchise its first Lombardi Trophy.
3. The Bills recently fired their offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, with Joe Brady taking over for the time being. What were the issues with Ken Dorsey’s offense, did he deserve to be fired, and what does Joe Brady bring to the table?
I’m not the head coach, but from what I observed it was too predictable and overly complex in situations begging for simplicity. Ken Dorsey is a very intelligent man, and it’s a shame he was dismissed in-season. But McDermott wouldn’t have made this move if he didn’t believe the team needed a change, a spark — while thinking that the move could benefit the offense even void of an overhaul in scheme.
The idea of Dorsey deserving to be fired or not is one of perception. His shortcomings were hindering the offense, and it’d become apparent that Allen was frustrated. But I believe it’s fair to question the merits of such a move for a play-hopeful team in-season. It’s not as if Joe Brady is going roll out a vastly different offense more than halfway through the regular season. Still, regarding Dorsey — there are too many potential options on the offense for there never to be a solution. But are those failings attributable to Dorsey, or Allen, or both?
Dan Orlovsky believes Dorsey’s firing was justified, seeing a scheme that “schematically is broken.” and also “schematically predictable.” Orlovsky also stated of the offense under Dorsey:
“I don’t think that they did things consistently to put their players in situations where they had advantages. I think too often the players were put in situations where there were disadvantages, and those players occasionally — and sometimes more often than not — won because they’re so talented and so good. That doesn’t mean that the scheme was the thing that was elevating that performance.”
The esteemed Greg Cosell offered the following:
‘I don’t think that this is a highly talented offense in terms of personnel. So, to me, when that’s the case, you need to be built on scheme and tactics.’ (and that) ‘I think that, you have a quarterback that’s a playmaker more than a precision player and at some point you do need to work toward precision. It’s very hard to live in this league just being a playmaker.’
Both Orlovsky and Cosell believe the offense needs to be more efficient, allowing for simplified execution by all involved. That’s an idea I can get behind.
As for interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady. It remains to be seen what he’ll implement. I expect he’ll operate within the framework of Dorsey’s playbook because there’s not a viable alternate option at this point. It’s possible he looks to incorporate more pre-snap motion and move pass catcher around more to create mismatches in key situations. Brady comes from the coaching lineage of Sean Payton, so that’s perhaps where he might choose to work conceptually down the road, and if he remains in the role as OC.
4. The Jets upset the Bills in week 1. Other than the change at offensive coordinator, what has changed about this Bills team since then? Are they better or worse equipped to beat the Jets this time around (other than the obvious difference of home field for the Bills this time).
You know... I’m not so sure I’d consider the Jet’s Week 1 win an upset. Sure, the guy playing QB at the end was Zach Wilson and not Aaron Rodgers, but that Jets team was anything other than an underdog to me. There’s too much history between the teams, especially concerning how often they give Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense fits.
I think the Bills are worse-equipped to beat the Jets this time, simply due to the injuries on defense and the sudden change at OC, the latter of which gave them an even shorter week to prepare for the Jets’ formidable defense. As quarterback coach, Brady isn’t fully new to offensive prep, but he wasn’t calling plays before this week.
The Bills’ injuries have devastated the defense. I won’t get into the complete history because it’d take too long to fully explain. But losing key players at each level of the defense in cornerback defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, linebacker Matt Milano, and cornerback Tre’Davious White is created a dire situation for McDermott. White (Achilles) and Milano (significant leg injury) are essentially gone for the season, while Jones has an outside chance at returning (pectoral tear). The Bills did make a pair of significant moves around the trade deadline, bringing in cornerback Rasul Douglas and defensive tackle Linval Joseph. Both players made immediate impacts, and have allowed the team’s players around them to ramp back up their game-changing production.
At the same time, the Bills may be better-equipped at beating the Jets based on mindset. They know their backs are up against the wall, and very believe they have what it takes to make a meaningful run at postseason play.
5. If you were a betting man, which team would you pick to win this game, and what’s your prediction for the final score?
Taking emotion out of it, putting any affiliation aside? I still take the Bills this week. They’re at home, having just come off their first home loss this season — against a team they should have defeated despite all that went wrong. It was also the first time they lost consecutive games this season. They’re going to be fired up — and I expect it to be the right variety of fired up that channels positive energy. But that might not necessarily equate to tons of fantasy goodness, nor a dominating performance.
Add in their wanting to avenge what happened Week 1, which played out very similarly to the Broncos loss (four lost turnovers, defense keeping game in hand, offense scoring late, special teams mistake ultimately undoing chance at victory) — we could see a renewed focus from the Buffalo Bills. That could include a larger focus on the run game this week and a passing attack that prioritizes safety over sensational.
Every week from here on out is essentially a playoff game for both teams. Most have said that going 5-2 should position Buffalo for postseason play, but I see their margin for further error at no more than one additional loss. Even that may be a stretch. I suppose you’d say the same for the Jets. But what could benefit the AFC East hopefuls moving forward are the unfortunate injury situations at quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.
I very much dislike predicting final scores, but I’ll oblige your ask here. I predict a very low-scoring game, given the change at offensive coordinator and two defenses playing out of their minds by most measures. Where the defenses appear to struggle of late is in the running game for the Jets and acting as a closer for the Bills. That said, I think the Jets break their TD drought in a close-fought loss. Bills 13, Jets 10.